The Ancient Ones was Deadman’s Tome attempt at a Lovecraftian themed anthology, and the result was a well-received and highly rated Lovecraft tribute. We wanted to take another crack at it with Ancient Ones II by featuring a different assortment of tales that explore the unfathomable nightmares, the ancient ones, the alien gods from afar.
The Ancient Ones delivers a short but powerful collection of gripping Lovecraftian short stories.
The Ancient Ones II consists of seven Lovecraftian horror stories. The Keswick Oddity tells of detectives daring to face an unfathomable fear as they investigate a very unusual case. North by Due North puts military might against Ancient muscle in an epic battle. Something Eating At You tackles mystery and dread of the unknown. Pokethulhu modernizes Cthulhu mythos into collectible pocket monsters. The Prince dwells in the dread of the unknown as a man dares to learn about things he should probably leave alone. Delicious Meat introduces and explores a modern Ancient Ones cult, and A Gift from the Stars is practically a love letter from H. P. Lovecraft.
As kids we’re told that Christmas is a magical time when a mysterious man from a mysterious place sneaks into your home to leave gifts. But only, if you were good. Because this mysterious man, this Santa Clause, has been watching you the entire time. Santa sounds like a pervert. But what if this Santa, isn’t that Santa we were describe as kids? The fat, jolly man with a white beard. Last year, Deadman’s Tome explored the idea that Santa is actually Krampus, and had a great time doing so. This year we’ve drawn our attention to one of the biggest and baddest monsters of all time: Cthulhu. Who else would be capable of watching all, hearing all, and reading the thoughts of all? The real Santa is Cthulhu, and as kids we’ve been duped. Don’t believe me? You will after reading this!
Deadman’s Tome presents Cthulhu Christmas Special and Other Lovecraftian Yuletide Tales – a smooth blend of the holly jolly merry vibes of the holiday season with the dread and unfathomable horror of Cthulhu and Lovecraft. This collection of horror pairs nicely with a glass of eggnog, or if you prefer, a glass of whiskey. With over ten stories, this collection offers plenty for H.P. Lovecraft fans and general horror readers.
Become a patreon member and get access to Deadman’s Tome Cthulhu Christmas Special and other great titles like Monsters Exist and Real American Horror
Deadman’s Tome podcast
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New episodes Mondays and Wednesdays with a live episode on Fridays at 10pm CST
Captain Jonathon Riesner reclined in his bio-chair, staring out the portal into the black seas of infinity – his head throbbed with what had become a never-ending headache. Three crewmembers had died mysteriously over the past five days. Officially, he reported the deaths back to Sector as accidents, but they were not. The crew was on edge. He had slept very little since the first death, tormented by a reoccurring nightmare and the feeling of extreme dread – and he feared it would only get worse. He was not the only one, the ship’s doctor had told him, when pressed that five of the remaining seven crewmembers had come to him complaining of trouble sleeping and seeking his help. The doctor was reticent to say any more when asked further questions, but there was something more to it – as the doctor himself was deteriorating with dark circles under his blood shot eyes and a nervous tic that drew up his mouth on the right side in a grimace, now occurring with greater frequency and severity.
They had only two of the bodies, Science Officer Varda Negrev had opened an air lock – what remained of him was somewhere out in space. Technician Lordis Mason had died of exsanguination, her throat torn out, apparently by her own hands because she was the only one in the pod at the time. Captured on security camera, Payload Specialist Jim Paulson had put a pneumatic driver in his right ear and turned it on. Lieutenant Souder was the only other person he had allowed to see it since he was concerned of the effect it would have on the rest of the crew if they saw it.
He turned on the com unit and made the end of day recording: “Outlander 3, Mission Gamma Circuit, Day 1423, Return to Earth. Fuel Cells at 48%, Food supplies for another 36 days. Three of four water recyclers functioning at optimal levels. At current capabilities should dock at outer Earth station Micron in 33 days. Nothing of significance to report. Captain Jonathon Riesner out.” The ship will make it back – If any of us survive, he thought.
He had taken a Somalune earlier in hopes it would help him sleep and he did feel drowsy. He reclined his chair fully, gave the audio command for the cabin lights to dim, and prayed that he would not dream. The white noise hum of the air recirculator helped him slow his breathing and heart rates to match it, his eyelids fluttered and he soon drifted off.
Great cyclopean cities of titan blocks with mile high monoliths piercing dark skies all dripping with green ooze, sinister with latent horror, something suggestive of ancient and profane cycles of life in which man’s world and his conceptions have no part. A sound reverberated in the distance: thump, thump … thump, thump … growing louder with each passing second – hideous wings flapping – It was coming!
His vital sensor system began its high piercing alarm waking him. It issued an audio warning:
“Warning, Heart Rate at Dangerous Levels, 132 bpm”
He knew if he did not calm himself the cardiac pacemaker that had been implanted in him (as every crewmember had) would shock him to attempt to get back to appropriate levels. His hands were shaking and sweat was dripping from his face. The capacitors in the cardiac assist device, he knew were charging up – he had moments before he would feel the searing pain. If he could control his breathing, he might be able to get his heart rate down. He began breathing in, counting for five seconds, held his breath counting for eight seconds. Exhaled slowly counting for another eight seconds. Repeat.
“Warning, Heart Rate at Dangerous Levels, 128 bpm”
It was coming down but not fast enough. Riesner placed three fingers of his right hand on the carotid artery on the right side of his neck and began a massaging motion stimulating the vagal nerve. He continued with the breathing exercises.
“Warning, Heart Rate Elevated, 118 bpm”
The beeping alarm occurred less frequently – it was working. After about another minute his heart rate was within normal range and the audio signal stopped. He knew that the capacitors would harmlessly discharge.
He lay back and rubbed his eyes. It was the same dream every time he slept except that whatever approached got closer and closer. What was it?
He knew he would not sleep that night. Resigned, he sat up and went to the console, replaying the video that he had seen at least fifty times already. Payload Specialist Jim Paulson, “Pauly”, entered the pod, the camera in the corner looking down. His arms were jerking about his fingers as if some sort of fit of spasms flexing, bending, pointing making unrecognized gestures. He looked briefly up at the camera, his eyes wild, laughed shrilly and chanted: “Ph’glui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagal”. Foam started pouring out of his mouth and he lowered his head. Looking up, he hurriedly went to the tool bench in which all the instruments were strapped down, picked a pneumatic driver, stuck the end of it in his right ear, turned it in and forced it in. Paulson began screaming, but continued to force the device in, blood and gray matter poured out between the shaft of the driver and his now enlarged ear canal. Finally, he jerked wildly and dropped to the ground – with enough damage to his brain done so that his autonomic system shut down, stopping his heart.
They had done analysis on the words and the language was unregistered in the computer. Also, they had interviewed every crewmember to see if anyone had noticed anything strange in the time leading up to the suicide. He had been the first, Lordis Mason killed herself two days later and two days after that Varda Negrev had decided to take a walk into the great unknown. Things had begun soon after they had gone through the wormhole.
Wormhole Gamma breached a tunnel to the Andromeda Galaxy. After the discovery of the element Prometheus on Saturn’s moon Titan, everything changed. The ore, a natural source of exotic baryons, resembled any ordinary ore in its inert form. However, once femto-refined it could stabilize wormholes, even artificial ones. With negative energy density, the exotic baryons could produce a locally mass-negative region of space-time, which allowed faster-than-light travel through the Casimir effect. Artificially produced wormholes were now possible with only an initial investment of energy.
The first manned ship had gone through Wormhole Alpha to the Crab Nebula just twenty-three years ago. The first ship to return to Earth through a wormhole occurred eleven years later with the crew alive. Currently, seven artificial wormholes existed within the Earth’s solar system for interstellar travel as formerly unreachable and sometimes even unknown areas of the universe now became accessible as space exploration consumed humanity. As space-time in the immediate galaxy began to resemble Swiss cheese, many urged caution in poking holes in the universe, as they believed that they were on the verge of some galactic cataclysm. However, the same wander lust that had brought man to new lands on Earth to explore and eventually populate the entire planet now propelled him to risk all to find new worlds overriding rational concerns and fears. The biggest fear – the wormholes can just as easily lead Whatever is out there to here – to Earth and the end of humanity.
An alert sounded and Lieutenant Souder spoke to him in his earpiece, “Captain, Come to engineering … IMMEDIATELY.” The last was in a panicked tone.
The Captain looked at his watch 3:15 AM Ship Time. Ship Time, based on an artificial 30-hour clock to help the crew maintain a regular schedule, established a sleep/wake cycle. Everyone except the duty officer should be in their quarters sleeping.
He left his quarters, hurried down the hallway past the other private quarters, half climbed down, half slid down the ladder to operations level, past the engine bay to engineering. There were two concerned crewmembers standing outside and the wall was in transparent mode so they could see everything. The door slid open and he went immediately to the control and set the wall to opaque.
Technician Tom Bailey had Doctor Kendra’s arms pinned behind his back. The ship’s doctor was thrashing about, his face red, spittle dripping from his mouth yelling, “We can’t bring It back with us!”
Lieutenant Souder was standing to the side, wringing her hands.
“What’s going on?”
“He was trying to sabotage the ship.” The Lieutenant said not believing her own words.
“He was attempting to close the friction valve in the oxygen exchanger.”
“Why?” Riesner moved closer to the two struggling figures. If the friction valve closed the oxygen flow could have ignited in the feed line – fire would have consumed everything and everyone in the ship within seconds.
“Why?” the Captain asked again.
The doctor briefly made eye contact and Riesner’s blood froze – there was a look of shear madness in them.
“Why?” Riesner asked this time more forcefully.
“We can’t bring It back with us!” The doctor shook his head.
“Bring what back?” The Captain asked fearing the answer.
“Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagal” the doctor said.
“What does that mean?”
The doctor shook his head, distraught; eyes closed tightly, “Those are the words I hear in my head.” He stated softly.
“Can I trust you if we release you?”
“Cannot bring It back with us!” the doctor repeated.
“Let’s get him back to his quarters.” The Captain said. “Lieutenant you had medic training can you give him a sedative?”
“Yes, but we should keep him under watch.”
“Yes of course.”
Bailey frog marched the doctor back to his quarters. With the help of the Captain, he placed him on the bed and the Lieutenant gave him an infusion of sedation. The doctor struggled less and less and lay quietly on the bed. The Captain went to the desk. He was stunned at what he saw. The doctor in his spare time liked sketching and painting watercolors. He had beautiful landscapes taped to his walls of idyllic places on Earth but what he saw on the desk was far from beautiful. It was quite alarmingly hideous – It was a watercolor of some foul creature. It was a white polypus thing with red luminous eyes. It could have been part octopus, part mythological dragon and part human. Tentacles hung from the head and it had a scaly grotesque body. Wings spanned out from the back and dramatic claws on hind and front legs. Riesner’s heart skipped a beat – It was what was in his dream, what he never saw but was coming. He knew It was! Riesner rubbed his head.
“What is it?” the Lieutenant asked looking over his shoulder.
“Have you had any dreams? Strange dreams?” The Captain asked not making eye contact.
There was a pause. “Yes, but …” and her voice trailed off.
“Tell me about them.”
“They are just dreams.”
“I will tell you about mine.” And he told her about the alien cityscape, the approaching Thing, and the overall sense of dread.
He turned and locked his gaze on hers. She looked down.
“Dreams are only random firings of neurons based on memories and influenced by imagination, they are …”
“Are your dreams similar?”
She swallowed deeply, “… yes …”
Riesner took the watercolor sketch and went to the doctor lying in his bed. Bailey had brought a chair over and sat vigilant. The doctor’s eyes though glassy now because of the drugs still had a look of panic in them. His body lay listless.
“What is this?” the Captain asked the supine doctor showing him the art. The doctor looked away.
“You are a man of science and the sanest person I know, least you were.” The Captain said. When the doctor did not reply the Captain moved closer to him and so that only the two of them could hear, “Tell me John what is this? If the ship and crew are in danger I must know.”
The doctor closed his eyes and the Captain thought he was not going to say anything, then he did,” Cthulhu that is the name associated with It. You would think that It is only someone with a diseased malignant imagination could conceive. It is of eldritch origins – older than humanity. The others – they all have dreams of it. The city under the water, R’lyeh, will rise up and bring a rule of tyranny of madness upon the Earth. It would one day return to Earth when the stars aligned but the wormhole – it created a way for It to return, a path for madness to descend to consume all.”
“How do you know all of this?” The Captain asked, wanting to doubt the doctor’s sanity but somewhere deep inside knew that he was right.
“It communicates through thought, through space. It will enslave the soul of humanity if we do not stop it. “The doctor stopped and Reisner thought he was finished but continued, “I thought at first it was mass hysteria – a mass hallucination, But … “and the doctor shrugged his shoulders, “the madness is real, all the suicides – they are the end result.”
The captain patted the doctor on the chest, “Rest.”
The doctor was not done, “I was mistaken, blowing up the ship will not stop It – we must destroy the wormhole and Its path! “
“Ok, Ok.” Riesner stood and spoke quietly to the Lieutenant, “Put a block on engineering so that only you and I can gain entrance.”
The Lieutenant nodded her head.
To Bailey he said, “Stay here and watch over him.”
Upon exiting the doctor’s private quarters, he met the rest of the crew.
“What’s going on?”
“What’s wrong with the doctor?”
Bombarded with questions, he could no longer hide it from the rest of them, they knew something was wrong, but he needed time to think. “The Doctor is not feeling well. Go back to your rooms and get some rest. We will have a meeting at 8:00 in the galley.” He left and went to his room.
He began pacing.
This is all madness. He thought.
But, it is affecting the entire crew.
What if what the doctor said is true?
He unconsciously went to the overhead compartment above his bed, removed the chain around his neck with the key and took down the bottle – Glen Fiddich 100 year old single malt Scotch whiskey – it was almost empty, he had been going to it more and more lately. He reached for a glass, thought better of it and just began drinking directly from the bottle. He was so exhausted. After a half hour of pacing, he lay on his bed. Just a couple of minutes of rest – just close his eyes.
The greenish skyscrapers of non-Euclidean design reaching towards the poisonous sky. Pestiferous slime dripping from everything and the beating of wings: thump, thump, Thump, Thump, THump, Thump, THUmp, THUmp, THUMp, THUMp,…, No look away! THUMP, THUMP and IT was there before him, descending – the atrocity – the stealer of minds. Blotting out the sky, white phosphorescent slug like body, tentacles twitching about from the face, claws extended, the eyes – NO Do not look into the eyes! No too late! The searing red rending his soul!
Riesner woke with a start. He knew what he must do. As he strode down the hallway, he heard screams and sound of anguish coming from the other quarters. Though concerned he was undeterred from his mission. He went directly to the bridge. Though it should not have been, it was empty. He sealed the door and went to the helm, changed course back to the wormhole.
Within moments, he received a communication from Sector, “Sector to Outlander 3, why have you changed course?”
“Must not allow It through.”
“Must not allow It through.”
“Outlander 3, do not understand, why have you changed course? This is not part of your mission.”
“My mission is to save humanity.”
Riesner turned off the com. Liuetenant Souder was at the bridge door pounding – it would not open its controls fused.
“Captain, what are you doing?”
“Must not let IT through.”
“Captain we will not have enough supplies if we do not dock at base Micron soon.”
“The rest of the crew, you see them, you hear them.”
“Yes but, it is just, …”
“No, It is real, IT IS COMING!”
After about an hour the Lieutenant stopped pounding on the door and pleading and began sobbing. By the time the ship reached the portal to the wormhole she had gone quiet then began chanting “Ph’glui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagal”. The Captain watched over this period as four of the seven remaining crewmembers’ system sensors, which shown on the control panel, flat lined.
The entrance was a glistening sphere showing distorted images of the Andromeda Galaxy on the other side. Upon entering, it was like traveling down the center of a wide tunnel, surrounded by concentric circularly distorted repeats of the same view. An Einstein Ring with the whole view of the Galaxy wrapped into a series of rings that got more and more closely packed together as the Captain looked to the left or right -consequences of general relativity and the curvature of warped space like light viewed from a curved lens. Riesner watched the wondrous view, momentarily forgetting why he was there. But images from the dreams shook him and he choked with the stench of a thousand open graves and the stark reality of what was at stake brought him back.
Riesner projected a hologram of his family into the bridge chamber. He began sobbing uncontrollably then closed his eyes, reached for the key board and began turning off safety overrides. He ejected positive mass-energy into the wormhole and right before it collapsed and became a black hole his eyes rolled back in his head and yelled “Ph’glui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagal”.
As the wormhole became a black hole, masses nearby such as three of the outer moons of Uranus disappeared and the planet wobbled then stabilized. In Whitechapel London a fifteen year old full of teenage angst began spray painting the word “Cthulhu” on the sides of buildings though he did not know what the word meant. In a SOHO studio a painter who was one of the highest paid living artists began painting figures of a great grotesque figure with octopus features on a dragon body though he knew not why. In a South American village, a primitive tribe began dancing wildly around a fire chanting “Ph’glui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagal”. In …
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Deadman’s Tome The Ancient Ones is a great tribute to the dark and disturbed mind behind the Cthulhu mythos. Readers will descend deeper into madness with each and every story. Some of the stories go as far as to emulate the prose of the tormented Road Islander. And now, readers can read The Ancient Ones for FREE! That’s right, for nothing. But only for a limited time!
Get your free copy of The Ancient Ones and see how Deadman’s Tome does Lovecraft! read for free on Amazon Kindle!
*This offer starts on 3/28/2017 central standard time.
There is a rule in my town: one day, you will go missing. You will never return. Those that go looking for you will suffer the same fate, whatever yours may have been. There’s a two-month grace period to make sure you haven’t simply gotten lost, or had an urgent visit to someone out of town, or been in an accident. After this, all of your goods will be sold. No one, for their own sake, will speak of you again, no matter how great or terrible you may have been.
Jenny always said I was bad at following the rules.
Tromping through the streets, I held my jacket closed tight around me, my other hand pressing my phone to my ear. Her last message was my only clue. “Hey sweetie, it’s me. Just wanted to say I’m leaving work now, stopping by the pharmacy, and then I’ll… wait, what’s… I think someone’s hurt.”
To date, no one had witnessed another person disappear, nor been able to collect any evidence. Even so, when I heard her car pull over, her door open and shut, I knew there was serious trouble going on. “Ma’am, are you… Oh my god, Lisa? Lisa what are you doing, where have you been?”
Fabric rustled indistinctly, though it may have been wind against her speakers. When her voice returned, it wasn’t frightened, or even alarmed. She was calm, with the steady tone of someone who knows what’s coming next is inevitable. A faint rasp, the breathing of someone afflicted by pneumonia or some other respiratory distress, hissed in the background, then Jenny’s phone hit the ground. One quick scrape of a heavy object being dragged along pavement was my last clue to her location.
The message ended, and I was tempted to listen to it for the seventh time. My hands were getting cold, though, so I put the phone away. She worked at Weissen’s, a printing service only a few blocks from our house, near the Old District; the pharmacy was in the Old District itself. Her car was along that relatively short route, yet in the dark, freezing cold of our New Jersey winter, even a few blocks seemed like an eternity.
“Jenny?” I yelled, not wanting to attract attention. Being targeted by whatever took her didn’t scare me. Every so often, a citizen would go looking for someone who’d disappeared, and the police usually caught them. Protecting them meant locking those people in the drunk tank and having “friendly chats” until that person decided not to keep searching. Kindness isn’t always the same as niceness. They definitely saved lives, though some didn’t have lives to return to.
If the police were to pick me up, it’d be over. I’d lose whatever chance I had of finding her. That was far more horrible than any fate I could’ve imagined. I was never exactly the creative type.
That message kept bothering me. She couldn’t really have meant Lisa. Jenny wasn’t a risk taker, not like me. I dropped out of college to start my own business; she worked her way up from a part time office clerk to middle management at one of the most uninspired businesses in town—her words, not mine. I’d encouraged her to pursue a passion, like painting, or teaching yoga, but she said, after what happened to her sister, she didn’t want to push her luck.
Lisa, her sister, had disappeared when she was a sophomore in high school. It’s why she got the job at Weissen’s. No one found Lisa, or their parents. Jenny was left on her own, with little inheritance, and no family. They hadn’t gotten life insurance policies; said it was tempting fate. I suppose it was.
Jenny’s car loomed in the distance, just two blocks away, so I started jogging. “Jenny?” I called, thinking about how we really should’ve moved. “Jenny!”
There are plenty of reasons to stay. Amazing tax break, great schools, fertile soil, generally fair weather from spring until the end of fall, even a hot spring nearby. Most of the residents—the ones untouched by our town’s odd circumstance—agree it’s been blessed.
As I approached, I could see Jenny’s phone, smashed yet otherwise untouched, in the street. Torn fabric led toward the nearby manhole, which had been left ajar. “I’m coming, baby,” I said under my breath, grabbing the edge and straining to move it.
“Hey,” a voice said. “What are you doing out here?”
I turned to see Morsooth, an older fellow who’d been here since birth. His family had been here since the founding of our town. He was a gruff sort, in his sixties, serious but not ornery, still well-built from a life living off the land. No one else chopped down trees to make their own furniture.
Looking between him and the metal disc, I fumbled for a reply. He held up a hand to silence me, then squatted to help. Together, we got it free. Laying a hand on my shoulder, he said, “There’s nothing for you down there. But, there’s nothing for you up here either, is there?”
Wind stung my eyes. At least, I told myself that’s why I was tearing up. “Good luck, son,” he sighed. “I’ll close ‘er up after you.”
And he did. The tunnel below was lit by a few emergency lights, but my visibility was reduced to almost nothing as he slid the cover back in place. I’ll admit, I was never a strong man, not one inclined toward physical fitness. I’d have no way to move it back on my own.
The trip down the ladder was short. Once at the base, I found, rather than sewers, I was in an old service tunnel. The walls were rounded, leading in to another series of passages. Each seemed darker than the last, with lights a little dimmer, a little grimier. Every so often, a burned-out bulb threatened to cast me into darkness, but my phone provided enough light to get by. Using it too much would kill my battery. That didn’t matter. I could feel myself getting closer.
Following the progressively darker pathways, I started to notice gouges on the walls. They led through a door, down a corridor, through another door; beginning to run, my feet smacked against the cement floor, sending harsh echoes through the tunnels until it sounded like an army was charging toward me. Cracked walls and broken floors surrounded me, the air filling with dust from unrepaired infrastructure.
This wasn’t just the work of some outside force. This was conscious neglect. My city, the mayor, the government, they must have known something was down there! To think, they’d had this knowledge the whole time, a complete understanding of where our citizens were going, where my wife, where her sister, her parents, had vanished to, and they’d kept this information secret. It was enough to fuel my adrenaline, pushing me down those halls faster as I channeled all my rage toward the person who’d taken my wife.
The possibilities ran through my head. What could be there—a military installation, a serial killer, a tribe of inbred cannibals? Or maybe a plague of giant rats, waiting to feast on unsuspecting people who wandered too close to their habitat when the sun went down.
My attention was so wrapped up in what I might find that I almost didn’t notice when I found it. Skidding to a halt, I tried and failed to catch my breath as the tunnel suddenly opened up. A stone staircase stretched down before me, ending on a perfectly flat, circular floor of green-gray stone. In the center of a room so vast I almost couldn’t see the far side, a being sat cross-legged, in the center of a series of markings that glowed unnaturally in the darkness. I didn’t recognize them, but I knew they were some kind of runes around a spell circle.
All around me, those markings glowed, adorning the ceiling, and swirling in-between decorations on the walls. It wasn’t until I turned my head to look at my immediate sides that I saw these decorations were human heads. The room was massive. There must have been hundreds, even thousands, of heads, all of them staring, eyes open, mouth gaping.
Breath catching, I whirled about, disoriented. This wasn’t possible; some faces I recognized from years and years earlier. My old kindergarten teacher, who’d vanished fifteen years ago; a girl I dated in high school; the previous mayor; a congressional aide from the first, and last, time a senator came to visit. They were all… perfect. Not merely preserved, but untouched, as if they’d never been killed, apart from a single clean slice that had severed their heads from their bodies.
The sight made my head spin, and the disorientation sent me hurtling down the stairs. I lost count as my limp body accelerated, but there must have been forty stairs, at least. With a hard crunch, I hit the landing, saw the blistering, putrid, reddish-purple color of pain exploding across my vision as my leg broke. I screamed, for myself, and for every person who’d been brought here.
A scuttling captured my attention. Turning as best I could, I saw the being from the center of the incantation circle coming toward me. Then I understood its collection. The beast had no head. Whatever screams I’d let out before fell dead in my throat. The sound was inadequate. All sound was. Looming overhead, it stood seven feet tall, so thin it was nearly a skeleton, with jittery arms and legs, dancing like a spider over fresh prey, yet its neck ended with a mottled stump. It didn’t kill me, though. Oh no, it didn’t kill me, it just hovered over, then darted off to its wall. I saw it scale the smooth surface, adhering through some arcane design, before it plucked a head from one of the many small shelves.
Returning to me, it walked over, then dramatically shoved the severed trophy onto its stump, twisting until it locked in place with a gut-churning snap. It removed its hands. It was wearing Jenny’s head.
“Hello, sweetie,” it said, in her voice, with her smile. Yet, I didn’t know who I’d hurt if I swung. Not that I could’ve done much damage from the ground, but lord did I want to ravage this monstrosity. How dare it touch her, in any way, let alone wear her head and speak with her tongue? This thing, with its pale, putrid body that looked and stank like a week old corpse?
But… it was her face, and when she stared, noticing I wasn’t replying, she looked hurt. It even mimicked her mannerisms, twisting a rotting left thumb in its oversized right fist, her crystal eyes cast down as she said, “I’m sorry I was late for dinner.”
It couldn’t be Jenny, yet everything beyond the desiccated body said it was! Torn between two impossible options—that my wife lived on as a severed head, and that some sick beast could wear its trophies to mock survivors—I turned away, retching. What little I’d eaten for lunch came back, spattering across the stone floor.
“Oh, dear,” she said, two bony arms scooping me up, loose flesh shifting like a bag of cockroaches. “Stomach bug? Did you order from Giovanni’s again?”
I’d gotten sick from that place on two separate occasions, but still loved their meatball subs. They were the best around. Or, maybe the best of the worst. “I don’t understand.”
“It’s okay, I’ll take care of you,” Jenny cooed, but I shook my head, shutting my eyes. My leg throbbed, and I thought of all the people up above the surface, sleeping peacefully, enjoying a life we’d never get.
After a moment passed, when she realized I wasn’t going to look again, she said, “We can be together here. Don’t you want that?”
I didn’t know what I wanted. Then I felt a shift in the way she held me. It was tense now. Restrained. “Fine. I understand.” Two pointed fingers dug into my neck; I croaked feebly against the attack and passed out.
The beeping of a heart rate monitor woke me. White lights blared overhead; a doctor was nearby, staring at a clipboard. When I tried to speak, he hushed me, saying I’d fallen down an embankment and broken my leg, then passed out from shock. “It’s lucky you’re alive,” he chuckled. We both knew what he meant by that. He didn’t realize how serious his joke was.
A week later, I was released. I spent every night dreaming about that place; I spent every day thinking about it. The Headless One, that creature who wears humans for fun, takes on their personalities—even, it seemed, their souls.
It doesn’t matter if that was Jenny, or just something pretending to be her. That’s the only remnant I have of the woman I love. Down there, in the abandoned tunnels beneath my city, lies something horrible and ancient, inextricably bound to the most wonderful woman I’d ever known.
I have to go back. I’m going, tonight. If you don’t hear from me again… don’t try to find that place. Don’t try to bring me home. There’s a reason why no one who goes looking for a loved one comes back.
This Friday at 10PM CST, Mr. Deadman and William C. Marchese pick Raven McAllister’s brain and explore the conspiracy behind scary logos. Raven McAllister is a psychotherapist hailing from southwest Louisiana. His stories have been featured on a number of eZine sites such as Dark Energy Speculative Fiction, Macabre Cadaver, and Flashes in the Dark, and in the print anthology Hindered Souls. His latest story, “The Language of the World,” is part of the Restless anthology released in October 2016, and his story “4 Turns” will be featured in the upcoming Between the Tracks collection. He also has a story featured in The Ancient Ones – Deadman’s Tome tribute to lovecraft.
Catch the show live at 10PM CST to participate in the chat and present questions.
It is through my own naïve thoughtlessness that these great horrors have inflicted themselves upon me in this way. When my life ends, which will be moments and not days, weeks, or years, I can only hope that their torment will finally end. But I know that my very soul, be it living or dead, will never recover from the abhorrence I have engrained into it.
My son, Randolph, is ten years old. He was always a jovial child, forever smiling and showing myself and my wife nothing but love. Before he even began crawling I knew that he was destined for greatness. I had always wished for him to not only be successful in life, but to live in a perpetual happiness and self-assurance that I could have only dreamed of. I am now certain that this is indeed the case, but the details of his future are ones I hope I shall never experience in this life or the next. But I now I have come to realise that these hopes are futile.
Randolph had always loved books; reading them and having them read to him. As a toddler he giggled at the pictures of pirates in underpants and witches on brooms. As he learnt to read he would laugh hysterically at children in chocolate factories and diaries written by wimpy kids. As an avid reader myself, this was one aspect of his development that I tried to positively encourage whenever possible.
My bookshelf is vast, with hundreds of books collected over many years. Some are quite pristine and are merely there for decoration, whilst most are tattered and worn with the battle scars of love. Randolph used to stare at the books in awe, picking them up and admiring the art. He asked me questions about them and who wrote them, never seeming inattentive at my regaling of interesting facts about the histories of the stories and their authors.
By nine, Randolph acquired a curious interest in one of my favourite books on that shelf, a giant tome in black leather; HP Lovecraft, The Complete Fiction. The book was so heavy that Randolph couldn’t hold it on his own and it was down to me to take it from the shelf and shew him the hundreds of pages of the greatest cosmic horror I have ever come to know. He pleaded with me to read him some, presumably he felt the tiny font and wafer-thin pages with no pictures a little too intimidating for his nine-year-old attention span. I told him that he was too young for it, but it became an almost regular occurrence for him to ask to hear a story from that great book.
Finally I relented. He was ten by then and I promised I would read him a short story before bed. I chose Nyarlathotep, mainly due to it’s short length but also as it’s one of my favourites. So that evening I settled Randolph into bed and read to him. It had been a few years since I had enjoyed Lovecraft’s work and reading it again, out loud for the first time, I was overcome with great joy and that cathartic fear that emanates throughout the great man’s work.
Randolph lay there and listened intently. Perhaps it was my soothing voice, but he was as quiet as I’d ever heard him. When Nyarlathotep was finished Randolph said nothing. He stared at his wall as if asleep with his eyes open. I asked him what he thought. He replied that it had been ‘amazing, Dad,’ and asked if we could have another one the next evening.
My wife had told me that he was far too young to be told stories such as these, but as she, to my knowledge, had never read any of Lovecraft’s work she took little persuading to allow me to continue.
That night my dreams were haunted with ominously strange and terrible black shapes that I could not fully appreciate. They were only shapes and not definable by waking standards, but they made my mind tremble in the darkest depths of my psyche at their appearance in my nightmare.
I awoke in a cold sweat to the sound of Randolph crying. Collecting my thoughts and trying to wake myself fully I stumbled out of bed and into his room. Between sobs he told me how he’d had a nightmare but could remember no details of it as I settled him back off to sleep, trying to keep my own eyes open for fear that my own nightmare should return. In the morning we both awoke in his bed, and nothing was spoken about our sleep experiences.
Randolph asked for another story the following night, and shewed me the one he wanted to hear. The Statement of Randolph Carter had caught his eager attention due to his name being in the title. I gladly obliged and he listened attentively yet again, only breaking silence once the story was concluded to express his delight at it. He fell into slumber almost immediately.
But that night my nightmare returned. The black shapes were getting closer and more distinguished, their gelatinous forms crept towards me, guided by a dark malevolent force. I was powerless to escape them and in my dream could feel dank, slimy breath passing over my shaking, naked form. I was aware of myself twitching, my mind trying to awaken my body from these horrific sights it had invented. Then all of a sudden my eyes shot open and I heard a sound from Randolph’s room.
At first it was difficult to comprehend, but as my ears adjusted I became aware of a ghost-like chanting. “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.”
Surely I was still asleep and this was simply the next part of my dream, it had to be. I glanced over at my sleeping wife, she was snoring softly and seemingly unaware of the terrible sounds coming from our son’s bedroom. It was all so real and my conscious tried to convince my subconscious that I was still asleep. But I knew that I wasn’t.
After a few moments in this fear-filled haze I braved standing. My legs were weak, I hoped because of my tiredness but I couldn’t really believe that was the cause. I made my way into Randolph’s room and the chanting filled my ears, like the room was full of ghosts. He was sitting up in bed, the incandescence from the gibbous moon outside illuminating his face like a spotlight. He didn’t notice me enter which came as some surprise as I was certain that my heavy breathing was the loudest sound of all. I sat down on the bed and did the only thing that seemed natural; I held him tightly in my arms, rocking him gently back and forth in a vain attempt at silencing him and the hideous accompanying chorus.
His voice finally lowered and he snuggled his face into my chest. I lay him down carefully and wiped the sweat from his brow. In moments he was quiet again and sleeping soundly. I remember standing and watching him for what could have been an hour or more before I finally braved leaving him alone. My wife was still asleep and only stirred slightly as I got back into bed, my body trembling uncontrollably. I lay awake until the first rays of the morning sun brightened the room, my eyes scratching and begging to be closed. But I had defied their wishes, I couldn’t have dared sleep again. For what may have returned was something I couldn’t bear to witness.
But sleep must have come at some stage, for my wife was gently shaking my arm telling me that it was time to get up and get Randolph ready for school. I complained that I felt unwell and would need to stay home from work for the day, something my wife accepted readily. She insisted I stay in bed while she sorted out Randolph’s breakfast and took him to school.
I was grateful for the extra sleep, oh how I needed it. I awoke around dinnertime but my stomach rumbled in disgust at the thought of eating. Instead I sat alone in the living room, staring over at the bookshelf towering before me, my eyes drawn to that leather-bound book that had caused all of my recent woes.
The words that Randolph had spoken, I knew them, and I knew their translation. “In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.” The Call Of Cthulhu. Although I’d hoped one day to show this great story to Randolph, I had purposely neglected to even mention the details of it to such a young mind. For that story had left it’s mark on my adult psyche, and what it might do a child’s was something I never wanted to comprehend.
But how had he known the words? Had he been flicking through the pages without me present? I stood and checked the book. There was no evidence of scrunched pages or sticky finger marks, the book was in as pristine condition as it always was. Although it should have been my last thought after what had been happening recently, I started flicking through the book. Picking out paragraphs here and there, and mesmerised by the words I felt my pulse quickening. The Hound, The Music of Erich Zann, The Haunter of the Dark, The Dunwich Horror; all these great stories here in one collection that I had bought so that I may enjoy them over and over, and share them with family and friends. But there I was, pathetically shaking in a very real fear as I read and read.
It is only fiction. This statement, this fact was one that I kept repeating to myself, yet somehow my mind refused to believe itself. How could the inventions from one man’s brain be affecting me this way? Unless they weren’t inventions.
No, preposterous, of course they were. Yog-Sothoth, Azathoth, Shub-Niggurath, all these must surely have come from the mind of a great concoctor of horror. I was desperately trying to convince myself of this as my hands became clammy and the pages showed patches of damp where I had been desperately fingering them.
I slammed the book shut and shuffled over to the bookcase where I put it away. Once back sitting I still couldn’t take my eyes off it. This was getting to the point of ridiculousness, it wasn’t like the book was written by Abdul Alhazred, for goodness sake. The murmur of the mad Arab’s name sent a chill down my spine. I leapt to standing and hurried over to the book, taking it forcefully and burying it under piles of papers in a drawer. I hoped that hidden away it could do me no harm.
I fell into a dream-less sleep on the sofa for an hour or two and when I awoke was finally able to steer my thoughts away from what had happened and by mid-afternoon I was feeling much better. I even accompanied my wife to collect Randolph from school. As the bell sounded and hoards of children flooded from the main entrance my eyes were drawn to Randolph and the piece of paper he was proudly waving in the air. He expressed his delight at his accomplishment in art class that day and my wife took the picture from him, shewing her pride at his achievement with a large hug. I ruffled his hair as she passed the picture to me. But as I looked upon it I felt the whole world dissolve around me, and the memory of those black shapes violently invaded my conscious.
When I awoke later in the school nurse’s office, the image I had seen before I blacked out was still haunting my mind. A crude child’s picture it may have been, but what it spoke of brought that crawling fear back to me like an insidious carpet of oblivion. It was of a man wearing a suit, much like I wore to work and it may well have been a drawing of me. But instead of a head was a hideous mass of tentacles spewing outward. The detail was exquisite and not just from such a young hand. The almost alien-like suckers on the feelers appeared to have rows upon rows of sharp and ravenous teeth, ready to leap from the paper and tear apart the unfortunate soul who happened to be looking at it. Around the figure were strange markings, possibly sigils, that to a casual observer would have simply been random marks from a colouring pen. But there was something deeply unsettling about the arrangement of those symbols that brought nausea upon me as I tried to banish the memories from my half-awake brain.
Randolph had sat with me while I was out, the nurse later informed me, holding my hand with a look of real concern on his young, innocent face. After waking he had asked me if I liked his drawing of the octopus man. The octopus man? I couldn’t answer him, couldn’t find the words or even a comforting smile to appease him. He didn’t seem to mind, though. Perhaps his worry over my health was the only thing that mattered to him.
I assured the nurse that I was OK to go home, and I walked the short distance with Randolph holding my hand. His touch seemed hot, like we held a burning stone between our palms. I tried to force my hand from his grasp but hadn’t the strength to follow it through. Instead I was led home by my young son who did his best to try and keep the buoyancy from his gait.
Once home I retired to bed. My wife was preparing dinner and after a few moments came upstairs to check on me. She seemed satisfied with my explanation that I was fine, and held my hand in an act of support. Her hand felt hot, too and I wondered whether it was indeed my hand that was burning.
My wife offered me comforting words and expressed her delight at the drawing that Randolph had done in school. She didn’t seem to realise that that was what had brought this latest breakdown upon me. She smiled as she admitted she had been wrong to question whether it was too soon in his life to be getting him interested in such stories. She, like me, was delighted that he had taken such a shine to them. Randolph joined her by my bedside and asked whether he could have another story that night. I apologised that I was too tired to but my wife offered to read to him instead. His little face displayed such excitement. My wife stroked my hair from my face and said that this was the start of something great, and thanked me for being the catalyst for it. If only then I had fully realised what she meant.
She told me to get some rest and that she’d be up later to check on me. I tried to protest but was too weak to do so. Instead I fell into a deep slumber that seemed to call my name in some ancient and despicable tongue.
I was aware of my vocal chords grating in an attempt to rid my dreams of those black shapes of evil that encircled every inch of me. My ankles and wrists became tight like they were entrapped, and my hands and feet were so numb that my nerve endings stung viciously. My body was pleading to wake up, to clear my sleep-senses of these horrors that were devouring not only my body, but my soul. My legs were twitching and my back was screaming in spasms. Cool air whistled across my cheeks and I was aware of hands clambering over me. It was the most realistic dream I had ever experienced. In my dream I felt I was a messiah, being manhandled onto a wooden construct in front of a field of hungry spectators.
A guttural cry from my decimated throat was echoed by a chorus of whippoorwills from nearby. Their beating wings passed over me with the sound of a thousand drum rolls. When my eyes opened it took a few moments to adjust to the darkness. I was outside, surrounded by rows upon rows of giant old oak trees. The only light source was from the low moon, it’s rays piercing through the dense woodland around me.
My hands and feet were bound, my arms aloft as though I were reaching to the heavens for some kind of salvation. Before me stood Randolph and my wife, embracing each other with a look of true happiness. They watched me and their eyes displayed no sense of concern or even remorse for what they had done to me. I pleaded for them to let me down, but my words spluttered out incoherently and were lost in the void surrounding the trees.
My wife crouched and picked up something from the ground beneath her. It was a book. It was my book, HP Lovecraft, The Complete Fiction. The golden words gleamed in the moonlight against the black leather. My wife handed to book to Randolph who managed to hold it all by himself, and he began reading. I didn’t know what he was reading, my ears had become numb, my body deciding that what was coming from his mouth was not something I wanted to hear.
I looked up. A wooden beam stretched out above me and my hands were tied with twine to it. I feebly pulled my arms but they wouldn’t move. I sunk my head in to my chest and as I began to sob I noticed the piles of wood beneath my feet.
A giant bonfire had become my home. The splinters burrowed into my soles but by now I had become immune to any pain. What was sure to happen to me was much worse than a few pieces of wood piercing my skin.
Randolph continued to read. I looked at him and tried with everything I had to make him look at me. But it was fruitless. As I suspended on my funeral pyre, my tears clouded my sight but I was sure that Randolph displayed happiness at what he was reading. The words were bringing him joy. Was that not something to take from this horrific situation? All I’d ever wanted was to bring joy to him through the written word.
It seemed like hours, but eventually my tears dried and I could witness Randolph and my wife leaving me. There was a terrifying sound in the air, as though some great beast was hiding among the trees. It could have been a bear, I tried to tell myself, but I knew that it was not. The timbre of the noise reverberated inside my organs and shook my brain like it was about to explode inside my skull. The disgusting, foul and diabolical sound now gusted around my naked body and I felt something enveloping the trees around me.
Animals fled around my feet, whimpering at the great blackness that was invading their habitat. None of them looked back as they scampered away, leaving me alone with whatever this thing was that was seemingly right behind me. I closed my eyes in an attempt to rid myself of the horrors that were surely coming for me.
If only at that moment I could have given up. To lose one’s mind before one is forced to see something so disgracefully abhorrent would be the greatest of mercies. I had read so many tales of how these beasts we are never supposed to experience can drive a man to insanity, and each time I had been in awe of how terrible these things must have been. My imagination could surely never dream up something as horrific as the sight of these monsters would actually be, and for me that was always the addiction of these cosmic horror stories.
But I fear that soon I shall be witness to this very thing that has encapsulated me for all these years. Do I wish to die before I can behold what really exists past the point of mankind’s understanding? Of course I do, for if these things look even a thousandth as frightening as they sound, death will be a welcome relief.
I pray to something, plead with anything that is listening to spare me the sight of this thing that I can feel behind me. It’s breath is singeing my skin and I can feel my mind fracturing. I wonder whether, without my influence, Randolph would have gone on to discover these great horrors himself. I’m sure he would have, he’s always been special, in a way I’d never have imagined. But my wife knew, she always knew.
I can hear the chanting again, it’s coming from the distance, getting louder and more piercing with every second that passes. I beg again to be free from this ending but I can feel my mind disengaging. If only my senses would fail also. But they will not. I will be forced to witness this diabolical consumption and live it for eternity.
March arrives and with it comes The Ancient Ones! A great tribute to the dark and deeply disturbed mind responsible for the creation of Cthulhu and the other Elder Gods. H. P. Lovecraft may have been relatively unknown during his time, but now he is remembered as one of the legends. And Deadman’s Tome is going to pay its respects to the legend.
The Ancient Ones is available on Amazon Kindle and in 6 x 9 soft cover format. Patrons of Deadman’s Tome that pledge a dollar or more can get a digital copy of The Ancient Ones AND HORRGASM for no additional charge.
H. P. Lovecraft died on March 15th, 1937, leaving behind a legacy that would take off and inspired many of the known modern horror writers of today. To pay tribute to his legacy, Deadman’s Tome put together an issue dedicated to the racist Rhode Islander and the Cthulhu Mythos he left behind.
Deadman’s Tome presents The Ancient Ones. The issue releases on March 1st for Amazon Kindle and 6×9 print.